Turnstone Press

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Turnstone Press

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The origins of Turnstone Press can be traced to an informal meeting at the Montcalm pub close to the University of Manitoba on a 1976 afternoon. A group of English professors and their friends began discussing their desire to establish a non-profit cultural partnership.

First located in a small but rent-free office in St. John's College at the University of Manitoba (though separate from it), the publishing house was administered by an editorial board initially consisting of professors/writers. Turnstone, named after the sturdily-built turnstone bird generally known as a great survivor, was established to publish the works of Manitoba poets and writers.

The founders of Turnstone Press, all of whom were young academics with impressive scholastic records and promisingly-creative minds, are as follows:
Gimli-born David Arnason, the son of a fisherman, studied at the Universities of Manitoba and New Brunswick (BA/1961, Cert. Ed/1963, MA/1969, all from Manitoba and a Ph.D. from University of New Brunswick in 1980). He was a high school English teacher before joining the English department of the University of Manitoba in 1972 as Canadian literature professor. Besides his writing talents, he became a recognized specialist in Canadian, contemporary American and commonwealth literature. He served as Dean of Studies at St. John's College, chairman of the Literary Press Group, was a co-founder of the Journal of Canadian Fiction and is a well-known Manitoba editor, publisher, award-winning author, journalist and broadcaster.

Dr. John Beaver, a native of England, was a French professor at University of Manitoba and was managing editor/business manager of Turnstone Press until a teaching offer from McMaster University in 1979 precipitated his move to Hamilton.

Dr. Dennis O. Cooley, a native of Estevan, Saskatchewan, earned three degrees from the University of Saskatchewan (B.Ed/1966, BA (Hons.)/1967, MA/1968 and a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in 1971). He was appointed to the University of Manitoba in 1973 and is a Canadian literature professor and assistant chair of English as well as a critically-acclaimed writer and editor.

Robert Enright was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and graduated from the University of Saskatchewan. He is well-known for his long career as an art/film critic and broadcaster (in both television and radio for the CBC).

Dr. Daniel S. Lenoski was born in Winnipeg, where he earned a BA (Hons.) and MA at the University of Manitoba. He received his Ph.D. from Queen's University. Dr. Lenoski spent many years as assistant and later associate professor of English at St. Paul's College, University of Manitoba. He was editor of the Canadian Journal of Irish Studies and is considered a specialist in Anglo-Irish, late Victorian and early 20th century literature.

A few years after its founding, Paul Hjartarson, who taught English at University of Manitoba, joined Turnstone as did Marilyn Morton (as managing editor of both Turnstone and Contemporary Verse II magazine) and David Michael Carr (associate editor). Carr was born in Chicago and came to Winnipeg in 1966. In 1985 he left Turnstone to work in the civil service.

By 1981 Turnstone had its own typesetters and began to produce much of its work on site as well as typesetting for others on a contract basis. Commissioned sales representatives distributed their books both nationally and internationally. Turnstone Press was incorporated in April 1983 with the following acting as first directors: Dr. David Arnason, David Carr, Dr. Dennis Cooley, Dr. Daniel Lenoski, Patricia Sanders and Dr. Wayne Tefs.

Initially Turnstone was strictly a poetry and prose fiction publisher but before long it began publishing drama, fiction, non-fiction and even plays. Turnstone's primary mandate has always been to facilitate exposure for both lesser-established and well-known writers by providing a quality prairie publishing house. As one of its editors commented in the April 1980 offering of Quill and Quire : "writers (in Manitoba) began as truck drivers, teachers, and farmers doing a little writing on the side. Access to publishing has helped them to take themselves seriously as writers." Among the established (and, in some cases, internationally-known) authors published by Turnstone were Sandra Birdsell, Bertram Brooker (posthumously), Patrick Friesen, Robert Kroetsch, Dorothy Livesay, Andrew Suknaski, Anne Szumigalski and Miriam Waddington. There have been several anthologies to come off Turnstone's presses. Reviews of Turnstone books are written and published worldwide and a number of the books themselves are required reading in many national universities.
Turnstone was able to function with the aid of Manitoba Arts Council grants over the years, along with intermittent funding from the Canada Council. Any profits realized from the sales of books went back into the publishing aspect of the press. Turnstone's first two publications were William Dempsey Valgardson's In The Gutting Shed and George Amabile's Open Country . The press fostered a growing group of Prairie or Manitoba writers and readers. When the Manitoba Writers' Guild formed in 1981, many of its founders were first-book authors with Turnstone.

Established during a period of significant growth in creative prairie literature, Turnstone quickly became a significant literary press in Canada and presently enjoys substantial national recognition.


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Created by John E.L. Richthammer (August 1996).




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